Swiss watchmaking has continued to reinvent itself throughout the centuries as Swiss craftsmen, inspired by their passion and love of tradition, strive to enhance their precision expertise.
Maison Bunter, one of the leading specialists in major complications and jewel-setting, has been fired by such passion for some 155 years. Bunter, presents Arcadia: an innovative watchmaking concept that rises to the challenge of reviving one of the greatest emblems of Switzerland’s watchmaking heritage.
During the 19th century the Arcadia brand was the symbol of Swiss watchmaking excellence and the standard-bearer of the celebrated Fleurier Watch Company, whose creative approach would inspire generations of watchmakers. Now, after falling victim to the ‘quartz revolution,’ Arcadia, and its incredibly avant-garde models, are being reborn under Bunter President Claude Sanz – a passionate devotee of watchmaking history.
This new adventure, imbued with unfettered imagination, offers a fresh approach to communicating the values of traditional Swiss watchmaking around the world.
In the early 19th century Swiss watchmaking – hitherto a craftsman’s activity – enjoyed one of its earliest industrial booms. Thanks to Edouard Bovet, one of the first watchmakers to target the Far Eastern market, the number of watchmakers in Fleurier (a village in the Val-de-Travers near Neuchâtel) more than tripled inside 30 years. Jules-Samuel Jequier, who was born in the village in 1835, chose to devote his life to watchmaking from an early age. He joined Bovet in 1856 after training as a jewel-cutter and, thanks to his enthusiasm and entrepreneurial zest, rose swiftly through the firm’s ranks.
Later, helped by his five sons, Jules-Samuel Jequier founded the Fleurier Watch Company, a manufacturer devoted to jewel-cutting and designing watch calibres. The growth of the watchmaking industry would inspire the Jequiers to launch a number of different watchmaking brands. Arcadia was one among them.
Arcadia was founded in 1858 and became the flagship of the Fleurier Watch Company. The classically-inspired Fleurier brand enjoyed great renown among connoisseurs of quality watches, epitomized by names like Breitling and Rolex. Arcadia watches displayed amazing creativity for the time.
This avant-garde brand produced some particularly stylish collections, typified by some of its early 20th century models – symbols of Swiss ancestral tradition imbued with modern, indeed contemporary, vision.
But the arrival of quartz was to be the downfall for many Swiss watchmakers, who failed to realize the importance of the 1970s electronic revolution. Swiss mechanical watches were left behind by cheap, mass-produced, electronic watches from abroad. The resultant economic crisis lasted 15 years and threatened the entire sector, coming close to completely destroying traditional Swiss watchmaking.
Many Swiss watchmaking firms were forced to close, taking with them the brands which had underpinned their success. Arcadia was no exception and, over a century after its launch by the Fleurier Watch Company, sank into oblivion.
2010 : REBIRTH OF ARCADIA
Arcadia represents the crowning glory to an exceptional career and the fulfilment of a dream for a man to whom watchmaking is far more than a job. Claude Sanz cuts a unique figure in the watchmaking world: a trained geologist and mineralogist, as well as an expert in setting and mechanical complications.
Nearly forty years ago Sanz acquired Bunter, a firm specializing in the cutting of industrial stones and rubies needed for watchmaking. Today, thanks to their mastery of invisible settings and de luxe, made-to-measure projects, Bunter are recognized by all the pre-eminent Swiss watchmaking firms.
For Sanz, work is a passion: a passion for timepieces, for horological savoir-faire and for watchmaking history. It is also a dream… one he has secretly entertained for many years, to blend his skill and experience with the launch of a watchmaking brand that would write the final chapter of a story that began 35 years ago. As a keen historian, he dreams of pursuing the mission of a Swiss watchmaking firm in the purest mechanical tradition – albeit one adapted to the contemporary era.
In the 1990s Claude Sanz learnt about the incredible story of the Fleurier Watch Company and its star brand, Arcadia. He was fascinated by this forgotten watchmaking venture, and promptly decided to take over the Arcadia brand – which had fallen into the public domain – and revive its century-old traditions.
With Bunter’s structural and technical support, Claude Sanz has set about renovating each Arcadia calibre in the purest watchmaking tradition, inserting them into modern cases with sleek designs, made using the latest avant-garde technologies and materials.
A combination of the richness of the past and the boldness of the future, Arcadia aims to showcase and perpetuate an exceptional, time-honoured, heritage on the international scene – and restore the prestige of a watchmaking symbol that was the pride of Switzerland for over a hundred years.